Doorperson of the Month – James Hatter 400 E. South Water St.

 

By Taylor Hartz, Staff Writer

November 2, 2017

As residents file into The Shoreham in Lakeshore East, they all stop to say hello to James Hatter. They fist bump, exchange nicknames and even deliver boxes of homemade baked goods to their trusted doorman.

 

“They feed me too much around here,” jokes Hatter, accepting a box of donuts and cupcakes from one resident on a sunny Friday morning. According to Hatter, the people who live in The Shoreham are the best part of the job. “The residents kind of grow into your family,” said Hatter. “You see them and their families every day, sometimes more than you see your own family.”

 

Of course, the location doesn’t hurt either. Hatter said he loves spending time in the Lake Shore East Park, and is grateful he got to watch the park be built up into a beautiful community center. “I would say this is probably the best neighborhood in Chicago,” said Hatter. “Working here I’ve got one of the greatest seats in all the buildings.”

 

Hatter, who has been at the Shoreham “since the doors opened,” has been working as a doorman for more than 17 years. He started his career greeting guests at the AC Hotel by Marriott Chicago Downtown, but prefers working in an apartment building where he sees the same people every day and really gets to know them. “It’s great working here with so many different people,” said Hatter. “It’s made me a better person, and a better family person.”

 

Hatter, a Chicago native, lives on the South Side but was raised in Chicago’s western suburb of Austin. He has worked downtown since he was a teenager, and his mother, siblings and two daughters live in greater Chicago.

 

While he loves the opportunity to get to know the Lakeshore East community, Hatter said his position has also allowed him to learn a great deal about countries and cultures outside of Chicago. Hatter said he loves learning about the backgrounds of Shoreham residents, and all the different places they come from. “If I’m not able to travel everywhere, I get to at least hear the stories,” said Hatter. “It feels like I’ve been all over the world.”

 

Doorperson of the Month – Tony Vergara

 ParkShore Condominiums, 195 N. Harbor Dr.

By Daniel Patton | Staff Writer

When Tony Vergara transferred from the maintenance department of the ParkShore Condominium in 2006 to the door staff, he discovered his professional calling. “I’ve been at the front desk for ten and a half years,” Vergara says. “I love it. It’s part of me. It’s what I was made for.” 

Born in Cuba, Vergara came to the United States with his mother. They landed in Florida, stayed a few weeks, and traveled north to join their extended family in Upper Manhattan.

Thanks to a little help from Mother Nature, he will never forget his initial glimpse of the Big Apple. “There was a big snow storm,” he explains. “First time I ever saw snow. It was crazy.” After a few months in New York, they relocated to Chicago, where he has remained ever
since.

Nearly two decades ago, a friend told Vergara about a job opening in the maintenance department of the ParkShore. At the time, the ParkShore was one of only three properties on the elevated portion of North Harbor Dr. between Randolph St. and Wacker Dr. The area that is now Lake Shore East Park then contained a three-par golf course. “It used to be this private thing,” he remembers. “Now it’s a whole new neighborhood.”

Besides a switch from maintenance to door staff, a lot has changed in Vergara’s life over the years as well. “I have three boys,” he says. “My oldest is [in] engineering school in New Jersey. My second is a sophomore in high school, taking classes at the Illinois Institute of Technology.”

Vergara is married to a “wonderful person” who he says has made him a better person. “I met her, believe it or not, at a gas station,” he explains. “She was pumping. I was pumping. We started talking. She gave me her phone number. I was just being myself.”

Eric Gates, The Lancaster

Throughout the week, Eric Gates maintains a calm and professional demeanor while doing his job as doorperson at The Lancaster, where he has been employed since 2010. But on Sundays, it’s a different story.

“I sing gospel,” he says. “I’ve been singing my whole life.”

The inspiration started when he was barely able to walk.


“My first church I ever belonged to was Wesley Chapel,” he says. “It was a small church. My mom used to take me there. I was in the choir when I started, probably about three or four years old.”

His devotion has held strong ever since.

“I stuck with the choir because it was a passion,” he explains. “I love singing.”

Eric is a member of Ricky Dillard and the New Generation Chorale, a nationally recognized ensemble that travels and records around the country. The group’s performances have generated close to a million views on YouTube.

On regular Sundays for the past sixteen years, he has been singing at Resurrected Life Church International, a place of worship on West Fullerton Boulevard. with an immense dedication to the surrounding community and seperate ministries for children, youth, young professionals, seniors, women and more.

When he’s not singing or working, Eric occasionally visits friends in New Eastside, especially to watch the fireworks during holidays.

But he mostly prefers to spend time with his wife and children.

“I’ve been married for seven years to a wonderful woman,” he says.

“I love my kids. They’re funny, man. They keep you young. They do all the goofy stuff that you did. They’re in the children’s choir.”

To nominate your doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com

— Daniel Patton | Staff Writer

Maicheal Estepaniance, The Chandler

Maicheal Estepaniance’s commitment to his trade goes beyond the typical list of requirements on a job description.

Maicheal Estepaniance

Ever since earning a degree in hospitality and business management from Triton Community College, The Chandler Lead Doorman has invested hours of his personal time developing the skills to provide more than a superior level of service.

“I’m insured and trained in CPR and AED,” says the native Chicagoan.

He learned how to assist people who are suffocating (CPR) and use a device that helps prevent heart attacks (AED) through “a five-week course for customer service, fire, CPR and security issues“ offered by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

The SEIU represents workers in the property services industry — essentially, the people who keep a high rise condominium running smoothly — as well as hospital, home care, and nursing home employees. The organization also helped Maicheal earn advanced firearms certification, but he is grateful that he’s never had to use it.

“Thank God, no,” he says.

This kind of discipline and follow through has been part of his character since he was a teenager. As a student at Mather High School on Chicago’s Northwest Side, he earned a spot on both the wrestling and the football team all four years. Then he spent a year and a half playing semi-pro football for the Oak Park Sharks.

“I played defensive end, right guard, and left tackle on the C team,” he says. “If you’re on the A team, there’s scouts looking for the NFL.”

These days, Estepaniance is content to help the daily needs of tenants in what he believes is one of New Eastside’s best properties.

“Not only the people, but the location,” he says. “We have the best sunrises.”

His favorite viewing time is when he assists children boarding the school bus on weekday mornings.

To nominate your doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

Andre Johnson, Harbor Point Condominium

Harbor Point doorperson Andre Johnson has shown the skills to succeed in several occupations over the course of his career, and he says that attitude got him where he is today.

“I consider myself a people person, which is how I ended up doing the job I do now,” he explains. “I try to give the service, the performance and respect that I would like to receive.”

“The residents make my job easy,” he adds. “They are great.”

Johnson has been a lobby contact at Harbor Point for 23 years. He learned about the position from “another doorman who was working at the property.”

At the time, he was selling women’s shoes for Chernin’s in Downers Grove. Prior to that, he spent more than a decade as a restaurant manager in Montgomery, Alabama.

The town is home to Alabama State University, where Johnson earned a BS in Business Management and employed his 91-mph fastball pitching for the Division 1 Hornets baseball team.

Although he enjoyed the South for “its hospitality and people,” the native Chicagoan returned north to be closer to his family. But not before trying out for the Cincinnati Reds.

“It was an open call,” he says. “Your turn comes around, you show what you got.”

He did not make the team, but that’s okay. Besides working the Harbor Point lobby, he keeps busy running an interior design business and spending time with his wife and three children.

To nominate your doorpereson email info@neweastsidecommunity.com.

Daniel Patton — Staff Writer

Al Hodzic, Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel

Al Hodzic would be happy to keep his job at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel at 221 N. Columbus Dr. for the rest of his life.

“Someday, I’d like to be the GM of this place,” he explains. “But if not, I don’t mind remaining as a door attendant.”

img_2611a

Al Hodzsic

He joined the staff when he learned about a bell attendant position last year from his father, who works in the housekeeping department. When the gentleman who was door attendant at the time moved to another position in May, Hodzic was next in line. No doubt, the position fits him well.

“I love that it’s a job that is all interaction,” he continues. “I’m always dealing with guests.”

As the only person with the title of door attendant at the hotel, he is the first representative to greet guests and residents when they arrive and the last one to bid them farewell when they leave. For the duration of their stay, he handles a number of chores that are typical of such a position.

“We do everything from hailing cabs to picking up peoples’ laundry,” he says.

He also keeps a record of every person he enounters in a leatherbound, pocket-sized notebook.

Among the residents he serves are a number of artists, athletes and celebrities who have upped the location’s reputation as one of the city’s premiere  properties. According to Hodzic, the’re just as friendly as the rest.

When New Eastside News caught up with him on the job, Hodzic was saying hello to one of his favorite residents, Ms. Jeannie Klauberg.

“Hey, Miss Jeannie, how are you!” he exclaimed. “I’m going to be in the newspaper.”

“Oh, good!” she responded.

“He’s wonderful,” she continued. “He takes wonderful care of me. He immediately gets the cab for me. Helps me into the cab. Yesterday, when I was upset because my mother was sick, he was so kind and so giving.”

Hodzic also handles the occasional — and often unique — one-off task.

“I had a lady ask me to get her pants sewn back together,” he remembers. “She’s a resident here. She’s really nice. I don’t mind doing anything for her.”

For many of the hotel guests, he’s the go-to source for tourist information.

“If they’re going shopping, I always tell them to go north,” he says. “If they’re going to museums, go south.”

“I also get, ‘what’s a good restaurant?’ I always recommend, for breakfast, Wildberry. That’s my favorite place for breakfast. For lunch, I would have to say Tavern at the Park. I’ve been to all of them. They treat me well because they know me so it’s a good thing.”

For the early birds willing to brave the Chicago winter, Hodzic recommends the ice rink in Maggie Daley Park. “That’s always a good thing to do to start the day off,” he says.

For those looking to explore the city’s bar scene, he recommends starting the night at Sweetwater Tavern & Grill on Michigan Ave. and finishing it off at Underground on Illinois St.

When he’s not on duty, Hodzic hangs out at the same places that he suggests for guests and residents. He also prefers spending time with friends and family near his home in Edgewater, especially when his mother cooks her homemade Bosnian specialties.

“I was born in Bosnia,” he says. “I came here when I was four years old, right after the war. My mom makes the best Bosnian food. No other woman can compete. Meat, lamb. She makes pita. You can put whatever you want in it. My favorite is the one with spinach.”

Like most Bosnians, he’s also very fond of Rakia, the frequently home-brewed fruit brandy of the Balkans that is known by many, including Hodzic, as “a cure for everything.”

“You can buy it at Mariano’s,” he says. “It’s good, but nothing can compete with the stuff from home.”

— Daniel Patton

Al Hodzic, Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel

Al Hodzic would be happy to keep his job at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel at 221 N. Columbus Dr. for the rest of his life.

“Someday, I’d like to be the GM of this place,” he explains. “But if not, I don’t mind remaining as a door attendant.”

img_2611a

Al Hodzsic

He joined the staff when he learned about a bell attendant position last year from his father, who works in the housekeeping department. When the gentleman who was door attendant at the time moved to another position in May, Hodzic was next in line. No doubt, the position fits him well.

“I love that it’s a job that is all interaction,” he continues. “I’m always dealing with guests.”

As the only person with the title of door attendant at the hotel, he is the first representative to greet guests and residents when they arrive and the last one to bid them farewell when they leave. For the duration of their stay, he handles a number of chores that are typical of such a position.

“We do everything from hailing cabs to picking up peoples’ laundry,” he says.

He also keeps a record of every person he enounters in a leatherbound, pocket-sized notebook.

Among the residents he serves are a number of artists, athletes and celebrities who have upped the location’s reputation as one of the city’s premiere  properties. According to Hodzic, the’re just as friendly as the rest.

When New Eastside News caught up with him on the job, Hodzic was saying hello to one of his favorite residents, Ms. Jeannie Klauberg.

“Hey, Miss Jeannie, how are you!” he exclaimed. “I’m going to be in the newspaper.”

“Oh, good!” she responded.

“He’s wonderful,” she continued. “He takes wonderful care of me. He immediately gets the cab for me. Helps me into the cab. Yesterday, when I was upset because my mother was sick, he was so kind and so giving.”

Hodzic also handles the occasional — and often unique — one-off task.

“I had a lady ask me to get her pants sewn back together,” he remembers. “She’s a resident here. She’s really nice. I don’t mind doing anything for her.”

For many of the hotel guests, he’s the go-to source for tourist information.

“If they’re going shopping, I always tell them to go north,” he says. “If they’re going to museums, go south.”

“I also get, ‘what’s a good restaurant?’ I always recommend, for breakfast, Wildberry. That’s my favorite place for breakfast. For lunch, I would have to say Tavern at the Park. I’ve been to all of them. They treat me well because they know me so it’s a good thing.”

For the early birds willing to brave the Chicago winter, Hodzic recommends the ice rink in Maggie Daley Park. “That’s always a good thing to do to start the day off,” he says.

For those looking to explore the city’s bar scene, he recommends starting the night at Sweetwater Tavern & Grill on Michigan Ave. and finishing it off at Underground on Illinois St.

When he’s not on duty, Hodzic hangs out at the same places that he suggests for guests and residents. He also prefers spending time with friends and family near his home in Edgewater, especially when his mother cooks her homemade Bosnian specialties.

“I was born in Bosnia,” he says. “I came here when I was four years old, right after the war. My mom makes the best Bosnian food. No other woman can compete. Meat, lamb. She makes pita. You can put whatever you want in it. My favorite is the one with spinach.”

Like most Bosnians, he’s also very fond of Rakia, the frequently home-brewed fruit brandy of the Balkans that is known by many, including Hodzic, as “a cure for everything.”

“You can buy it at Mariano’s,” he says. “It’s good, but nothing can compete with the stuff from home.”

— Daniel Patton

Craig Lykes, The Tides

Craig Lykes, Doorperson at The Tides (360 E. South Water St.), learned some of life’s most valuable lessons from his mother.

“She was an educator my whole life,” he explains. “She knew all the teachers and the principals, so I was always able to get help because they knew my mom personally.”

img_0388aHer extended network, he says, was his “most favorite thing” about having a mom who was a teacher. It not only helped his academic pursuits, but it also kept him honest and allowed him to develop great sense of humor.

“My least favorite thing about having a mom who was a teacher,” he jokes, “is that she knew all the teachers and the principals, man.”

By the time he graduated from Morgan Park High School in Chicago’s Beverly neighborhood, Craig definitely appreciated the value of a hard days work. But he wasn’t sure exactly how to make use of that appreciation. So he decided to join the army.

“I was not so much a troublemaker,” he explains. I was just all over the place. The military helped me get focused.”

For the next five years, he was stationed in places he had never seen before. “I was just all over the country,” he remembers. “Wyoming, Texas, Virginia.”

The journey continued even after he completed active duty and transferred to the reserves.

“When your contract is up, for two years after that, they can call,” he says. “Which they did.”

By the time he received his honorable discharge two years later, Corporal Lykes was a Chemical Operations Specialist with experience training soldiers how to identify and decontaminate biological weapons, nerve agents and poisons.

He returned to Beverly and worked security until a friend introduced him to the service industry. He became a member of the staff at a Lake Shore Dr. property and also filled-in at the Tides. When a position became available in the New Eastside building, he applied, received an offer, and said yes.

His previous experience is perfectly suited for the position.

“The military helped me deal with all walks of life,” he says.

“It taught me patience and how to deal with people. The values and the lessons that I learned from the military, they are priceless. I use them every day.”

But he’s quick to add that the challenges at the Tides have never tested this military-grade patience.

“I love the people here,” he says. “You have people from all walks of life, all places of the world. Everyone gets along just perfectly They make my job easy.”

The same goes for the building’s four-legged tenants.

“I’m a dog lover,” he says. “I’ve had dogs growing up my whole life. I love that this is a dog-friendly building.”

And it’s especially true of The Tides youngest residents.

“The kids here are so lively. They just put a smile on my face. They walk out that door, my whole morning lights up.”

— Daniel Patton

LaVelle Allen, Park Millennium

LaVelle Allen learned most of life’s important lessons as a child in Chicago’s Washington Heights neighborhood.

“My mom taught me how to communicate with people and treat people and be pleasant at all times,” she remembers. “She was a very outgoing person.”

Growing up with eight brothers and sisters, she had plenty of opportunities to perfect what her mother had preached. Now she puts that expertise to work as a member of the door staff at Park Millennium.

img_0969aweb“You’re the first person the residents see,” she says. “You smile and they feel good about their jobs.”

Her natural finesse for the role’s responsibilities is matched by a strong appreciation for the building’s residents.

“I’m comfortable with my position,” she says. “I love the tenants. Our manager, Cindy, is great. Anything has to get done, she gets it done.”

The instinct to provide comfort and show respect has also guided her to more than just a successful career.

Before joining the Park Millennium, Ms. Allen spent 25 years in the banking industry. When she was working at a particular branch where she could see homeless people “right across from City Hall,” she began collecting donations to provide coats, socks, hats, gloves, and toiletries for those in need.

To this day, a handful of grammar schools and churches continue to benefit from her efforts.

“My father always said that if you give, you will receive,” she explains.

In 2009, after she retired from the banking industry, Ms. Allen lost her mother, Gladys, to cancer.

She recalls that, “I wasn’t taking it so good,” when a friend gave her some life-changing advice.

“He said, ‘hey baby why don’t you get up and get your resume together and I’ll help you get a job.’”

She got the job at Park Millennium on the same day she interviewed.

The man who suggested the idea was someone she trusted. He came from the same community where she had grown up. He had been  a good neighbor for 42 years and a doorman on Lake Shore Drive for 25 of them. Also, he was her father-in-law.

“My husband Julius and I met in Mt. Vernon grammar school at 103rd and Morgan,” she says. “We have been together for 42 years.”

Together, the Allens have two children and six grandchildren. A seventh is on the way.

In her spare time, Ms. Allen operates a small business creating gift baskets and centerpieces, most of them for holidays and special occasions.

She started the operation as a creative outlet with a friend, but still enjoys the opportunity to tend to the needs of others.   

“Kids like Disney toys, Star Wars, Batman,” she says. “So I put that in my Easter baskets. Grownups like wine and other beverages. The exotic baskets have liquor, glasses, and candles.”

“Whatever the customers tell me they want and whatever design they want,” she says, “I fix it.”

Ryan Turner, Lancaster Condominiums

When Ryan Turner was just a teenager, he not only understood the value of a positive attitude, but he also consistently maintained one as point guard of the conference champion Gage Park High School basketball team.

“Even in the eyes of defeat, you have to see a win coming,” he says. “You put yourself into it and you get to know the inside and out.”

This is the philosophy that he brings to work every day as Doorperson of the Lancaster Condominiums.

img_9583aweb

Ryan Turner (photo: patton)

“You don’t want to come home and see me with a frown on my face,” he explains. “I’m going to make it real easy. My smile might brighten your day.”

The optimistic outlook has helped Mr. Turner earn personal trust and handle delicate responsibilities throughout his career. Before coming to the Lancaster six months ago, he spent six years working security at TCS Bank locations in Calumet City and in Homewood.

Although he describes the position as somewhat routine, he remembers one particular day on the job as “the wackiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“We had those Keurig coffee machines and you’re only supposed to take one,” he explains. “A lady came into the bank in a post office worker uniform and emptied the whole box into her purse. The branch manager came to me, like he’s supposed to do. The lady was ready to fight, but I calmed her down.”

The assistant bank manager recognized Mr. Turner’s knack for working with people and suggested that he pursue the position at the Lancaster, where her brother-in-law Eric was a member of the door staff.

After receiving the position, he says, “I couldn’t ask for a better building.”

“The people here are lovely,” he continues. “I’m getting to know the residents as well as their dogs and their babies.”

Looking forward, Mr. Turner plans to build a foundation for the future with his girlfriend of two years, Treamaine.

“The whole family loves her,” he explains. “My father doesn’t say much, but when he said he liked her, I knew I had to keep her.”

Likewise, Treamaine appears to hold Mr. Turner in the same high regard: she was the assistant bank manager who encouraged him to seek opportunities at The Lancaster.

“She’s the first and only woman besides my mother to ever help me improve my life,” he says. “She’s the woman I’m gonna marry.”

— Daniel Patton, Staff Writer

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